LOS ANGELES – A South Bay man was charged today in a federal grand jury indictment alleging he used the “Desilu” name – the same name used by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s television production company famous for shows such as “I Love Lucy” and “Star Trek” – to dupe investors into giving him money for sham investments, money that was actually used for personal expenses that included trips to Las Vegas.
Charles Hensley, 68, of Redondo Beach, is charged with 11 counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He will be summonsed into United States District Court for an arraignment in the coming weeks.
According to the indictment returned today, from August 2017 to May 2018, Hensley successfully pitched investments in companies he owned, including Desilu Studios Inc. and Migranade Inc., which he operated out of offices in Manhattan Beach and other locations in Southern California. While Hensley claimed his businesses were real and successful, in fact, the indictment alleges, they were little more than shell corporations used as part of an investment scam.
In 2016, Hensley began using the name Desilu, which was similar to the name Desilu Productions Inc., the company that produced classic television shows during the 1950s and 1960s. He then claimed he was making new content for his company, Desilu Studios.
Hensley allegedly told investors he was extremely wealthy and was backing Desilu Studios with his personal funds. In fact, according to the indictment, Hensley had few assets, and he repeatedly bounced checks and overdrew bank accounts to get cash and pay expenses.
Hensley also allegedly provided victim-investors false and misleading valuation letters that purported to show that Desilu Studios was valued at more than $11 billion and Migranade at more than $50 million. In fact, the indictment alleges, the companies had little to no assets and were worth nowhere near the represented value.
In addition to these false statements, Hensley allegedly misrepresented that his companies had acquired valuable intellectual property, distribution agreements, subsidiaries and development rights, and that they were actively developing projects and bringing products to market, including new film and television projects using the Desilu name. In reality, Hensley did not own the intellectual property and other assets he said he did, and he used misleading representations regarding new film and television productions he was supposedly producing to dupe victim-investors into giving him money.
The indictment further alleges Hensley falsely represented that Desilu Studios was about to go public and that the company’s stock was worth more than its face value and more than investors were paying and would increase in value following its imminent initial public offering. In fact, according to the indictment, none of this was accurate and Hensley stole someone’s identity to list as Desilu Studio’s chief financial officer in offering materials.
The overall scheme allegedly impacted multiple victim-investors, including some who wired the approximately $331,000 identified in the wire fraud counts. In addition to these victims, Hensley allegedly also targeted multiple companies in the entertainment industry. In this part of the scheme, Hensley allegedly used some of the same misrepresentations to convince owners and executives to sell their companies to him in exchange for Desilu Studio’s stock that, unbeknownst to them, was worthless. The indictment further alleges that Hensley touted these purchases to the individual investors, further misleading them about his purported acquisitions of valuable assets.
If convicted, Hensley would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count plus a mandatory two-year prison sentence for the aggravated identity theft count.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section is prosecuting this case.